Classical meets colonial : an exploration of the travel narratives of George Best
Thesis (M.A.)--Georgetown University, 2008.; Includes bibliographical references. The classical concept of the civilized community, or the civitas, plays a crucial role in understanding how English explorers approached the New World and its peoples, as documented in the travel narratives that chronicle these meetings. The 1578 narrative of George Best, A true discourse of the late voyages of discoverie, for the finding of a passage to Cathaya, by the Northweast, under the conduct of Martin Frobisher... portrays the New World in an Aristotelian context. Because the Elizabethan sense of community was deeply informed by classical texts, Best employs arguments derived from these texts when describing the natives he encounters. He treats the Inuit peoples of what is now Newfoundland according to the principles of classical philosophy, thus excluding them from civilization, as it was understood during the English Renaissance.; I show how Best frames his understanding of community based on the Aristotelian civitas, a classical model that included the role and responsibility of empire, decided the position of the foreigner or slave, and defined what was considered civil. I show classical thought influences how Best treats the concept of civilization, especially as it relates to acquisition, labor, control, and most importantly, the very nature of the Inuit peoples. In addition, Best works in concert with contemporary authors, such as John Stowe and Richard Eden, to define exactly what civilization is. He does this in an effort to achieve his primary objective, the so-called "good life" for those who dwell within civilization, a central tenet of Aristotle's The Politics.
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